Portrait of the founder of the Aero Club

Portrait of the founder of the Aero Club by Ambrose McEvoy (1878 - 1927)

McEvoy was a noted portrait artist who exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1925 and 1926, his sitters included Ramsay MacDonald.

Frank Hedges Butler, (1855 - 1928)

Balloonist and pioneer of flying. Hedges Butler was one of the first people in England to own a motor-car and was the first Hon. Treasurer of the Automobile Club.

In September 1901 Hedges Butler made an ascent in a balloon "The City of York" from Crystal Palace, London. He was accompanied by his daughter Vera and the Hon. Charles Rolls (later of Rolls-Royce). While flying over Sidcup, Vera suggested the formation of an Aero Club and so the Aero Club of the United Kingdom was founded, which in 1910 became the Royal Aero Club.

In 1902 Hedges Butler set a record for the world's longest flight the cross-Channel balloon voyage from London to Caen in France.

When in 1908 Wilbur Wright came to the United Kingdom to demonstrate his aeroplane, Hedges Butler was one of the first two Englishmen to fly with him. The Royal Aero Club played an important part in the early development of flying in the United Kingdom. It became the godparent of the Flying Corps, later the Royal Air Force. As the Army and Navy at this period did not own a single aeroplane all the early pioneers in the Army and Navy learned to fly on machines belonging to members of the Club. The Club was the only authority to issue Pilot Certificates, and service airmen used its airfield in the Isle of Sheppey, Kent.

The portrait shows Frank Hedges Butler seated before a painting of his balloon "Dolce far Niente" or "Sweet Idleness".

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